4910

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Colonial Indian Silver ‘Swami Ware’ Necklace

Madras, Tamil Nadu, South India. Unmarked, but probably by P. Orr & Sons.
19th century

total length (or circumference as worn): 46.5cm, weight: 99g

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Provenance

Estate of Oppi Untracht. Untracht (1922-2008), and American who lived in Finland, was one of the world's foremost experts of Indian jewellery, silverware and metal techniques.

This necklace of 13 silver plaques plus eleven associated pendant plaques and a catch are all repoussed and chased in high relief and by hand with stylised Hindu deities. The elements are all linked by silver chains. The main plaques are also pieced, and all elements are hollow and backed with plain sheet silver.

The style became known as ‘Swami ware’ and it is most associated with the colonial silversmiths P. Orr & Sons of Madras in Tamil Nadu, which at one point reportedly employed more than 600 Indian artisans. It was a product of the British Raj. It is unlikely that such items would have been won by local Indians, but were more created for local colonial Europeans to wear.

The necklace is in a fine, stable condition. There are no losses ore repairs.

References

Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.

Wilkinson, W.R.T., Indian Silver 1858-1947, 1999.

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